Anglo-Israeli ties under microscope

By Jessica Elgot, May 5, 2011
Defence Attaché Philip Stack salutes as Hatikvah is sung at the British Embassy in Tel Aviv

Defence Attaché Philip Stack salutes as Hatikvah is sung at the British Embassy in Tel Aviv

Israel's former deputy prime minister - Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky - and Britain's Defence Secretary Liam Fox will be among the key presenters at the UK's largest-ever Israel advocacy conference next weekend.

Bicom's We Believe in Israel conference, months in the planning, will track the arc of Anglo-Jewish ties with the Jewish state over a massive 58 separate workshops covering almost every aspect of affiliation with Israel.

Organisers have taken into account the doubts and concerns of British Jews in their sometimes troubled relationship with Israel. But delegates from across the UK will be able to ask hard questions in a series of challenging sessions.

Former Israeli peace negotiator Tal Becker, once Kadima leader Tzipi Livni's chief political adviser, will be on hand, as will the associate editor of the Sun newspaper, Trevor Kavanagh, and Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British troops in Afghanistan. Both Israel's ambassador to the UK, Ron Prosor, and his counterpart, Ambassador Matthew Gould, will be present, as will Matthew Doyle, political director to Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair.

From the threats from Iran to supporting Israel on campus, from combating criticism with comedy to the elegant art of letter-writing to make a political point, the workshops and educators hope to offer something for everyone. Under the microscope will be the British perception of Israel, the media's portrayal and "a Luddite's guide" to Twitter and blogging.

The conference, for which the JC is the official media sponsor, is backed by organisations across the political, cultural and religious spectrum.

But four groups, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, the Jewish Socialists' Group, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, and Jewdas have called the event "illegitimate."

Diana Neslen, a spokesperson for JFJFP, said: " If people really want to help Israel, they must speak out against its government's policies and withdraw their support until the occupation ends." Bicom declined to comment.

Last updated: 11:09am, May 5 2011